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Cubs rookie Hayden Wesneski has a refreshingly honest approach to pitching

1 year agoTony Andracki

P.J. Higgins had to get ready for his at-bat, but Hayden Wesneski didn’t want to stop talking to his catcher about their gameplan in the dugout.

“He’s full force. I’m trying to grab my batting gloves, get my helmet on and go hit. The passion’s there for sure,” Higgins said, smiling.

Wesneski made his first MLB start Saturday at Wrigley Field, throwing 7 innings of 1-run ball. He didn’t allow a run until the 7th inning and set down 16 batters in a row at one point.

After the strong outing, the 24-year-old rookie now boasts a 2.30 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in 15.2 innings with the Cubs this season.

Even more impressive: Wesneski has whiffed 18 batters against only 2 walks in his big league career so far.

“I put pride into that,” he said. “I think that’s the best chance you have of staying here longest is filling [the zone] up. That’s just part of my MO and who I’ve been.

“They’re gonna keep running me out there if I keep throwing strikes. At some point, good things will happen. My stuff is good and I know that. If I’m throwing strikes with my stuff, I even have a chance where I’m not so sharp.”

The Cubs acquired the right-hander at the trade deadline from the New York Yankees in exchange for reliever Scott Effross.

He came in at No. 10 on Lance Brozdowski’s midseason top prospects list and could be a major factor on the Cubs pitching staff in 2023 and beyond.

Wesneski has worked as a starter for most of his minor league career but the Cubs deployed him out of the bullpen for his first 2 MLB outings. In 24 games (23 starts) at Triple-A this season between both organizations, Wesneski was 6-9 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 110.1 innings.

While he said he doesn’t care what role he’s in right now, Wesneski admitted making his first MLB start was a big deal.

He also said he felt more nervous for this game than either of his other two outings. In his debut, he threw 5 shutout innings but last time out (Sunday), he allowed 3 runs and 2 homers in 3.2 innings.

“To be up front with you guys, I didn’t think it was gonna be a good outing,” he said. “I didn’t sleep great. I was really nervous. I was not very confident.

“And last outing doesn’t help. I gave up some home runs and I wasn’t as sharp. You’re like, ‘man, what if that happens again?’ But I kinda just fought through it with the stretches and stuff. Eventually got to the point where I needed to be.”

The preparation and pre-start gameplanning helps.

“He’s fully bought in to it,” Higgins said. “When we did our meetings earlier in the day, he had an idea of what he wanted to do, which is huge.

“Especially from a younger guy. A lot of times, they just want to be told what to do. With him having a gameplan of what he wanted to do makes him more confident in how he wants to pitch and it makes my job easier too.”

As for what comes next, Wesneski isn’t sure but he’s also not focused on trying to figure that out. He believes if he continues to throw strikes, he will earn a spot on next year’s big league pitching staff.

“It crosses my mind but we’ve got a long ways before that happens,” he said. “I got a full offseason to get through. I haven’t even thought about what I’m gonna do in the offseason yet and that’s something that I’ve usually done by now. With all this going on, it kinda just puts my head away from what I should be doing in the future.

“I’m just trying to stay here day by day, to be honest with you. I haven’t really thought about it. I hope to be on the big league club next year. If it’s starting or relieving, I just want to be given the opportunity. I just try and throw strikes.”

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